Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Direct Access Societies

Written by: on April 4, 2013

One of my favorite movies of all time is “A Knights Tale” starring the late Heath Ledger. In this adventure comedy set in 14th Century mid-evil Europe, a young peasant boy by the name of William Thatcher was given away by his father to a knight named Sir Ector in hopes of “changing his stars”.  After the death of Sir Ector, William who is now a young man takes the alias “Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein” and begins masquerading and competing as a knight in the nobility games. Throughout many ups and down, William fought to change his status in life and society. Culminating in his return to London where he grew up and now was about to participate in the world championship jousting


This past week While reading “Modern Social Imaginaries” by Charles Taylor I was struck by his comparison of historical vertical societies giving way to modernistic horizontal societies.  More specifically within these structures how individuals sense belonging to the state within each societal structure.  While reading this imaginary, the following points began to emerge.

Vertical Societies… During much of world history societies were formed around higher time principles.  Higher time referring to a vertical system of classes, lords, knights and ending with its apex in the King.  Within this vertical system there were many positives as well as negatives.  One negative which stands out is the inability to change your class.  If you were born a peasant, you were to always be a peasant.  However, not all in regards to the vertical system was bad.  Within a vertical system individuals were linked and felt belonging to their immediate community and Lord.  Your relation was personal and known. Not connected to all, but rather a few.

Horizontal Societies… The rise of modern horizontal societies is a radical shift from most of world history.  Rather than being held together through Lords and Kings we are all equally distanced from it’s epicenter.  Rather than being connected to a few, we are immediate to the whole.  The ability to be connected to all of society exists.  Within this structural system depersonalization of relationships and the dehumanizing or the loss of identity can occur.  Within an all access, unlimited, everyone is equal system the uniqueness of an individual and their relationship to the greater community is brought into question. However, a strong positive is the ability to “change your stars”.  Not just change class or societal standing, but rather connect to and learn from almost any person, culture, or people group on the planet.

This idea of simultaneous happenings can best be described as “The Age of The World Picture”


Toward the end of the movie “A Knights Tale”, William Thatcher after having been found to be an imposter is arrested and then placed in the stocks. During this time, Prince Edward, The Black Prince of Wales emerges from the crowd and commands the officials to release William.  In an act of nobility and friendship he asks William to take a knee repaying the kindness he was once shown. Declaring that William, by his word is now nobility.

How do you belong?

What is your status in the Kingdom?

How has direct access societies enhanced your formation or hindered?

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